Marvel's Deadpool 2 came out two weeks ago and, not only did it become a sequel that's better than its predecessor (in terms of box office returns, laughs and action), it also broke new ground with representation. But first, the obligatory spoiler alert: the following will reveal certain plot points of the movie and if you haven't already watched it, turn back now. Maybe check out our round-up of fashion and style from last week, or enjoy this video of a cat who refuses to let go of his owner's arm before closing this story.
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I watched Deadpool 2 on the night after it was released and, oooh, boy it certainly left an indelible impression on me. While it still suffers from issues like "fridging"—where the girlfriend is used solely as a driving force for the male protagonist—the film is enjoyable and very self-referential. And much has been discussed about the movie's easter eggs—from the Essex House for Mutant Rehabilitation (the comic book's villain is Mr Sinister aka Nathaniel Essex) to Brad Pitt's one-second cameo as the Vanisher. But there's a cameo that's unexpected, especially in the comic book world of the movies: gay superheroes.
According to director David Leitch, this inclusion wasn't a "statement [they] were trying to make". Screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese add, “It’s everyday life… As outrageous as it is, Deadpool is a very, very grounded movie. We didn’t want to make too big a deal of it.”
The inclusion of the relationship between Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Yukio doesn't affect the plot in Deadpool 2, and that's the point. According to Charles Pulliam-Moore from io9:
One of the most common (and frustrating) responses to critiques of films that refuse to include or even acknowledge LGBTQ characters is the idea that people are somehow agitating to make those films entirely about being queer. The problem with that line of logic is that it fundamentally misunderstands the fact that on-screen representation comes in a variety of forms, all of which are important for different reasons. Films like Moonlight and Dirty Computer delve into the inner lives of queer people and tell important stories about what it means to be a marginalized minority. Films like Deadpool 2, on the other hand, establish the reality that queer people, you know, exist in the world and are every bit as capable at playing superhero as our straight counterparts.
There were ample opportunities where LGBTQ rep was possible—Wonder Woman had an island solely occupied by women; producers toyed with the idea of a lesbian relationship within the all-women bodyguard phalanx, the Dora Milaje, in Black Panther; a scene that made Valkyrie's bisexuality explicit was cut from the film, Thor: Ragnarok. It's odd that LGBTQ representation only arrives this late in superhero movies. I mean, we have aliens, ghosts, and time travel, but for some reason, same-sex relations are beyond the pale of imagination or something.
LGBTQ people exist and they walk among us. This is a worldwide problem where straight-washing is normal—there's a rumour that Freddie Mercury's bisexuality will be downplayed or erased altogether in the upcoming biopic, Bohemian Rapsody, if the trailer is anything to go by. But let's focus on Singapore, that the bigger problem here isn't the lack of coverage of LGBTQ folks in superhero movies, it's the lack of coverage of LGBTQ folks in general.
Take the recent example of Love, Simon, a movie about a closeted gay 17-year-old teen who is coming to terms with coming out and uncovering the identity of an anonymous classmate with whom he has fallen in love with online. This coming-of-age movie is given an R21 rating, which is restricted to viewers age 21 and up. Because, I guess, that's the age that people can be mature about gay stuff.
Oh, wait. The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) clarifies that the R21 rating is due to "the theme of homosexuality, therefore, forms the main narrative of the film as the protagonist is portrayed to overcome his fear of being rejected as a gay male; and coupled with the support of his friends, gradually gains confidence to seek out the real identity of his love interest." Wow, thanks? I suppose a story about a teenager dealing with his identity is a "mature" matter that needs to be made when you're of the legal age to vote and smoke. Good to know.
To keep things in perspective, Deadpool 2, with its unfettered violence, creative swearing, sex talk and that mention of a gay relationship that had no impact on the storyline, received an M18 rating.
That restriction carries across to other areas, like literature (And Tango Makes Three) or theatre (Fun Home, Tango), and even for individual rights (s377A). For the conservatives trying to dam the flood of LGBTQ information, their game plan seems to be along the lines of the "out of sight, out of mind" approach. But you can't fight the Internet. The more people who are aware that LGBTQ people exist, the cultural tide can shift like our own Thasha Monique Dharmendra, who set up a petition to make Love, Simon NC16 in Singapore.
If that sort of message of having LGBTQ inclusion in the media is too hard to comprehend, we've simplified it for the homophobes.